Young poets are making the genre cool again | Sunday Observer

Young poets are making the genre cool again

7 February, 2021

Think poetry is boring? Think again. These nine new and diverse poets are proving the genre is more vibrant than ever

Ocean Vuong

Ocean’s buzzy new collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, is being published this year by Copper Canyon Press (which is a big deal, btw). But he’s already published two acclaimed chapbooks, won a Ruth Lilly fellowship and a Pushcart Prize, and been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Poetry Magazine, and the American Poetry Review. He tells Teen Vogue about his work, “I often say that when I write, I write to the terrified versions of myself. We all have weird and awkward and strange thoughts that deserve to be shared because [those] things make us who we are as unique individuals. The value of poetry, not only for young people, but for all of us, is that it gives us a space to be vulnerable, afraid, weird — and more fully ourselves.”


Fatimah Asghar

Fatimah’s work is characterized by a genre-bending approach to storytelling. She carefully treads the line between prose and poetry, subverting our expectations and doing so with poise. “I want my work to be a celebration of the body and a celebration of femininity in its various forms. “I also want to carve out space for my many languages to be considered poetry — from the languages that my family speaks at home, to everyday speech I hear around me, to the slang that me and my friends use,” she explains.

“Often, when we think of poetry, we think of some high elitist language that takes a lot to be decoded. I want to do away with that.”


Talin Tahajian

Talin, 19, is a second-year studying at the University of Cambridge.

In 2015, she co-authored a chapbook, Start With the Dead Things with Joshua Young, and currently works on The Adroit Journal with Peter LaBerge.

She says, “Usually, it takes me days or weeks to understand things I’ve written, the mechanisms of a poem, why comparisons and transitions are happening and why they’re working they way they do.

And I think that’s incredible. I think poetry is an art of comparison, and I think we write poetry to try to unpack the things that seem unpackable.” Check out her most recent poem, “Image as Fishmongers” in the Kenyon Review.


Kevin Kantor

Kevin Kantor’s work is characterized by an exploration of the “it’s complicated” relationship between poetry and the Millennial generation, according to his website.

His spoken-word poem, “People You May Know,” was a finalist at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational in 2015 and has since garnered over one million views on YouTube.

He says, “Poetry is the vehicle with which I’ve reached a further understanding of myself — as a young person who has lived through and with depression, as a queer person, as a survivor reclaiming my voice, poetry is where I turn to find joy.”


Sarah Kay

The Founder and Co-Director of Project VOICE, an educational program that makes poetry accessible for elementary, middle, and high school students, Sarah is an accomplished spoken-word poet who’s also published an illustrated single-poem volume, “B” and a collection, No Matter the Wreckage.

Check out her viral TEDTalk on spoken word poetry for proof that yes, anyone can be a poet.


Danez Smith

One of the few poets to work with both printed and spoken word poetry, Danez’s first collection, [insert]boy was published in 2014 to rave reviews. He’s been featured in Poetry Magazine, Beloit Poetry Journal, Buzzfeed, Blavity, and Ploughshares. Danez is a 2014 Ruth Lilly Fellow, and a 2-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, placing 2nd in 2014.

According to his website, he works to “transcend arbitrary boundaries to present work that is gripping, dismantling of oppression constructs, and striking on the human heart,” focusing on race, class, sexuality, faith, and social justice.